Berry Marttin: Finding the balance

06 Nov, 2014 06:45 PM
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Berry Marttin, Rabobank Group executive board member.
Balanced nutrition is a key issue for food security and global health
Berry Marttin, Rabobank Group executive board member.

WHILE "experts" frequently talk about a food security crisis in an increasingly over-populated world, global debate about our hungry planet's food challenge tends to overlook what farmers think.

Rabobank's Berry Marttin is alarmed the key players in the food supply equation – the people who actually grow what we eat – get remarkably few chances to voice their own practical ideas on what's really needed to effectively tackle the big production task.

In fact, he says if national and international leaders and commentators stopped to listen, they could be refreshingly surprised.

“There are some very serious problems which need to be addressed quickly”

The farm sector was remarkably resilient and focused on production efficiencies, yet clearly needed true supply chain incentives and sustainable community support to sensibly meet the food demands of a population zooming towards eight billion within 15 years.

"There are some very serious problems which need to be addressed quickly," said the Netherlands-based Rabobank Group executive board member and past employee of the food and agribusiness bank in Australia.

"Some of the most obvious include 40 per cent of all the food produced is subsequently thrown away or wasted in developed economies such as Australia, the US or in Europe, or it's spoiled in the field or in transit in countries which lack adequate infrastructure to handle it properly.

"And while on one hand 2 million children are going to bed hungry each night, and over 800 million people are chronically hungry, there are 1.6 billion people who are overweight.

"Balanced nutrition is a key issue for food security and global health.”

"It’s a great pity the voice of the farmer is never really there when these big picture concerns are getting global attention."

Mr Marttin said Rabobank's response to the food security debate was to take farmers ideas and on-farm stories direct to the doorstep of global leaders meeting at the Group of Twenty (G20) summit in Australia later this month.

In the lead up to the G20 gathering of leading figures from the European Union and 19 other advanced and emerging economies, Rabobank Group will host the inaugural Rabobank F20 (Food) Summit in Sydney.

More than 40 leading primary producers from around the world arriving in Australia this week to participate in Rabobank’s latest Global Farmers Master Class information sharing event, will next week join more than 600 F20 participants drawn from government, industry, academia, and advocacy groups and primary producers.

"We thought the G20 environment provided a unique opportunity for farmers to tell their stories, including solutions to food security problems they've already encountered," Mr Marttin said.

Rabobank has organised similar key food security events in Japan, the US and Europe.

Key themes emerging from the F20 Summit will be documented in an F20 memorandum and submitted to government, stakeholders, and global food security working groups.

They will also set the scene for the food and agribusiness sector to increase its direct engagement with solutions on the food security challenge.

He said huge opportunities for greater productivity were exemplified by Dutch horticultural producers who used just four litres of water to grow a kilogram of glasshouse tomatoes, while nearby field-grown crops required up to 60L/kg.

"We need to share this sort of knowledge and innovation, not just between farmers whose own farm businesses will benefit but with global decision makers who can help them achieve these gains for the benefit of many more producers and consumers," he said.

The co-operative run Rabobank itself had considerable research and specialist expertise on the food and agriculture sector within its global network which could also be of great value to putting food security issues and productivity issues in context.

He said Rabo's first farmer Global Farmers Master Class two years ago had evolved from information sharing and knowledge building programs run by the bank around the world including the 15-year-old Executive Development Program in Australia and 40 years of Rabo Foundation programs in Africa.

Access to knowledge, sustainable financial support, succession planning, innovation and industry leadership would be critical factors in enabling farmers to deliver the food security solutions the planet needed.

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FarmOnline
Andrew Marshall

Andrew Marshall

is the national agribusiness writer for Fairfax Agricultural Media
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READER COMMENTS

VivKay
7/11/2014 7:27:29 AM

"Some of the most obvious include 40 per cent of all the food produced is subsequently thrown away or wasted in developed economies such as Australia.." This is due to the nature of our food-based retailing, and the sale of ready-made foods in supermarkets, and in junk food outlets. This extravagance should be banned as wasteful, but it's part of our economy. All food should be cooked fresh, and we should be descending from high reliance on livestock products, and down the food chain for more production and better distribution.
White lighning
7/11/2014 7:31:20 AM

Boom Boom, this man is on the money.
pepper
7/11/2014 10:44:27 PM

If people are throwing away 40% of good food then it is either too cheap or there is too much produced. Unless rubbish processed food is flooding the market (causing major health cost burdens to the community), and the benefits of food grown in healthy soil and the resultant cost are ignored. A sustainable farm gate price for fresh healthy produce is urgently needed to ensure a sustainable option for healthy eating.

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COMMENTS

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Um er here's the bleeding obvious,regulation worked pretty well ay
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GM labels were never about safety but about the right for us to know what is in our food. People
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Livestock and cropping have always reduce the income risk for farming. My understanding having